With each passing day, it seems the United States of America, “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” is becoming more and more like the Communist Russia I learned about in elementary school where people weren’t allowed to grow their own food unless the State “allowed” it.
In this latest crackdown on citizens simply trying to provide for themselves using the most basic of skills – gardening – the USDA’s Rural Development Agency is forbidding Rosie, an industrious 4-year old girl in South Dakota from using a small, unused area outside her subsidized housing unit to grow green vegetables.
Rosie’s mother, Mary (names changed to protect the child’s identity), is single and severely disabled. She and her daughter live on a fixed income disability payment of $628/month. The garden vegetables growing just outside her backdoor lovingly tended by Rosie provide a fresh and healthy addition to their diet that they could not otherwise easily afford.
Rosie started the garden in May 2013, but now the property management company has ordered the garden be removed this week!
The property management company claims that gardening goes against the rules set by the USDA’s Rural Development Agency which forbids residents to have structures of any kind within landscaped areas. It seems to me that the practice of growing vegetables by the most needy in our society would take precedence over landscaping, wouldn’t you agree?
I wonder if the USDA plans to establish “rules” about breathing air in subsidized areas too?
The Federal bureaucracy seems to think that it owns those individuals who receive any sort of government assistance and that their behavior is completely within its jurisdiction to control no matter how ridiculous or blatantly un-American the power-tripping “rules” they decide to put in place may be.
Think this is an isolated case? It’s not. I write regularly on this blog about these outrageous situations where ordinary citizens are bullied by out of control bureaucrats, the most recent being a Mother in Maine who was harassed and threatened by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for feeding her healthy, robust 3 month old son homemade goat milk formula instead of horribly unhealthy commercial formula from the store laced with rancid vegetable oils and GMOs!
What You Can Do Now to Help Rosie
It is truly unfathomable that our country has degenerated to the point where a person can no longer garden without permission from bureaucratic thugs who get paid with our hard earned tax dollars to think up these rules – not laws - rules that have never been voted on by the elected representatives of the citizens expected to abide by those rules.
If you recall, this is exactly the sort of authoritarian insanity that started the American Revolutionary War (tea party anyone?).
Tell the USDA where it can put its “rules” against gardening by those living in rural, subsidized areas.
Sample Email to USDA
You can copy/paste the email template below to send directly from your email provider. Template provided courtesy of Kitchen Gardeners International, the source of this story.
Subject: Allow USDA-subsidized housing residents to grow vegetable gardens
Dear Director Meeks,
I urge you to make a loud and clear statement to all the property management companies your agency contracts that USDA-subsidized residents have the right to keep their own vegetable gardens provided that these gardens are actively maintained. Vegetable gardens grow healthy and affordable foods as well as a sense of community. Rather than preventing low-income and disabled residents from providing for themselves, we should be doing everything we can to encourage them. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
(Your name, your town, your state)
Important Updates to This Story
8/27/2013: FINAL UPDATE and details on Rosie’s Victory Garden!
8/26/2013: A detailed update to this story is provided here.
8/25/2013: Roger Doiron, Director of Kitchen Gardeners International, has provided more details on this emerging story. The USDA has claimed in email correspondence to Mr. Doiron that it has no written rules preventing Mary and Rosie from having a garden (despite the property management company’s insistence to the contrary). On the other hand, the USDA hasn’t come to Mary and Rosie’s defense either and by allowing the property management company it has a contract with to call the shots and bully Mary and Rosie it is essentially enforcing such a rule no matter what is claimed via email.
Bureaucratic rules are notoriously confusing to understand let alone interpret, but if the USDA stands behind its assertion that there are no “rules” – written OR unwritten – against gardening in subsidized housing, it should stop the property management company under the auspices of the USDA from forcing Mary and Rosie to remove their garden.
The USDA pays most of the rent for Mary and thousands of citizens like her around the United States. It should do the right thing and insist that property owners and managers of subsidized housing permit residents to grow their own food in well cared for gardens rather than look the other way when residents are bullied for their efforts at self sufficiency. After all, the stated mission of the USDA Rural Development Agency is to “improve the quality of life in rural America”. Gardening surely would be supportive of this important goal.
Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI). Rosie and Mary’s real names and exact location in South Dakota have not been revealed in order to protect the identity of a minor child. Please contact KGI Director Roger Doiron, firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to further verify the validity of this story.